A new survey from the Pew Research Center found more evidence of a shift in public attitudes toward illegal drug use, says NPR. The survey indicates growing public skepticism about prison terms for nonviolent drug offenders. Previous polls showed a new majority in favor of legalizing marijuana. The new survey finds changing attitudes toward harder drugs. Carroll Doherty, Pew’s director of political research, said two-thirds of respondents said they’d rather see the government focus on offering treatment to users of cocaine and heroin. Only 26 percent favored prosecution.
“You see that the public is really … moving away from kind of a punitive approach to some of these drug use issues,” Doherty said. By Pew’s count, 30 states have eased penalties for drug possession over the past four years. Marc Levin of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation says that in a similar survey in Texas, “some of the highest numbers were among Tea Party Republicans, in terms of the question: Should we divert low-level drug offenders to alternatives?” Levin notes, however, that in Louisiana, the Sheriffs’ Association is lobbying for tougher minimum prison terms for heroin users. Sheriffs, who run jails, receive state money for every inmate, “so they have a huge financial interest in keeping up the high levels of incarceration,” Levin says.